"Happiness in marriage is not just something that happens. A good marriage must be created. The little things are, many times, the big things." — Alway Wedding Ceremony, March 17, 2012
I think many people have the expectation that after the fairy tale wedding day is over, happy couples kick up their feet and ride the waves of hot monogamy off into the sunset. But in reality, marriage is hard, hard, hard work. It takes faithful, committed, selfless work, often in the middle of a boring routine.
Three years later, Stewart and I are still each other's favorite person. Most days. We miss each other when we're apart and can't get enough when we're together. Usually.
But we work at our marriage.
Every. Single. Day.
These are some of our recommendations on how to make marriage the fairy tale you always dreamed it would be. Or at least keep you from killing each other.
Don't get married until you're sure of who you are.
Marry someone you love exactly as they are, and be sure they feel the same. That way, you'll never expect more of each other than you are each able to give.
Get to know each other.
Live together (and sleep together) before you get married. Physical connection is one of the most important aspects of marriage, so confirm that you are sexually compatible with your partner before you commit yourselves to each other forever. And after you're married...
Have lots of sex.
Even if you don't feel like it; do it anyway. I can't express the importance of connecting with your spouse on a physical level enough. My theory about sex is the same as my thoughts on the gym: Sometimes you just really, really don't want to go. But you always feel great afterward, and you never regret going. Just do it.
Share a common dream.
It's important to be able to talk openly about where you both see yourselves in the future. Where you want to live, choices of jobs and locations, decisions about religion and having children and whether to work full-time, part-time, or not at all — these are issues that should be addressed early and often.
Anything worth doing is worth doing right. We're in it for life, and never think of divorce as an option. Almost all problems are short-term.
Take pride in your appearance.
Looking and feeling good is a recipe for a good sex life (see above) and a good marriage. And shouldn't you try to look your best for the person you love most in the world? Don't make excuses — take an extra five minutes each day to spruce up for your spouse.
Close the door.
Seriously... Keep bathroom activities private. There's no reason to pee with the door open. Personal, intimate activities like clipping your toenails, popping zits, and flossing should be reserved for private times. Preserve the romance and mystery in your relationship — it's just another key to having a great sex life!
Merge your finances.
In our opinion, having separate bank accounts opens the door to selfishness. Married couples should put the family before their individual selves, and one of the best ways to do that is to combine all assets and liabilities. This "we're in it together" mentality provides the foundation for mutual trust and shared goals.
Don't trash talk your spouse.
Throwing out complaints, highlighting flaws, expressing displeasure and airing your grievances in public is incredibly detrimental to a marriage. Selfishly letting out pent up resentment might feel good in the moment, but this is private stuff, and it should be reserved to work out in the privacy of your own home. And on that note...
Never argue in public.
Take it home to a calmer, more discreet surrounding. A couple arguing in public is embarrassing to watch, and it invites judgment about your relationship that your friends and family members may struggle to let go of in the future (long after the two of you have kissed and made up). Which brings me to...
Keep out external influences.
Family and friends typically have your best interests at heart, but if you're not careful they can push themselves too far into your personal relationship, wanting a say in certain situations and decisions. If a person is really committed to helping you, they will let you handle your own problems.
As for those people who have a negative effect on your marriage? Cut them out. Felicia may have been your best friend since grade school, but your spouse is your first priority now, and if Felicia can't accept and support that, she can just hope the door doesn't hit her ass on the way out. Bye, Felicia.
Take time before you have children.
Nothing can completely prepare you for becoming a parent, and the experience will test your marriage in ways you never imagined. Having a tiny human means leaving your past life and former selves behind. Your relationship is bound to change, so take time to enjoy each other while you're still young and energetic (and before your conversations start to revolve around someone else's poop).
Spend time without your children.
Spending quality time with your kids is imperative, but setting aside alone time with your spouse is equally important. Take time to re-connect, enjoy, and appreciate each other, because amidst the shuffle of diapers, chores, errands, bills and careers, it's easy to lose sight of why you fell in love in the first place.
Divide up the household chores.
Responsibilities around the house should be shared. Welcome to the modern world. Discuss chores and household duties and then set priorities as a couple, dividing up the work and creating reasonable expectations. Communicate — let each other know when you're having a busy week, and ask for help when you need it. But no matter what, be flexible and don't nag!
Put your marriage above your personal preferences. Strive to maintain an open mind. You don't have to agree with everything your spouse says or believes, but you need to be honestly open to at least considering their position. Sometimes I yield to make my husband happy, but he often does the same for me. A marriage is about give and take.
Keep separate lives.
Miss each other. Spend time apart. Not all the time, but occasionally. Life is about constant personal growth. Continue to feed your passions, learn life lessons and engage in activities that make you happy as an individual. Even couples in the happiest of relationships share different hobbies.
Trust each other.
Trust is probably the most important ingredient in building an intimate relationship between husband and wife. We don't have secrets and maintain total openness in our relationship (of course making exceptions for some private areas — see "Close the door" above).
So, do I have the number one secret to a happy marriage?
We all know those couples who, even after years together, still can't seem to get enough of each other. I don't believe that marriage is a fairy tale. It requires effort on many levels, by both parties, almost every single day. But like most things that require hard work, the rewards ultimately outweigh any hardships or drawbacks.
I'm not sure how my marriage looks from the outside, but I can assure you that I'm just as in love with my husband today as I was when we got married.
It helps that he's super hot...
"Openness, honesty, understanding and a mutual need to be together has brought us here. Those same qualities of living will continue to hold us securely together, and help us in our times of hardship. Together we have learned some of the lessons of life and the gifts of love. We will learn much more as our life together as husband and wife unfolds."